Today is June 18, 2017. The events of this past week have been at once encouraging, and troubling. In the wake of an armed attack on a team of Republican Congressmen practicing for a charity baseball game, we saw a brief glimmer of political civility and mature behavior. But the next day, it was back to the same old toxic politics. I have concluded that it’s time to stop criticizing and start doing something. This platform is a first step that I hope will help contribute in some small way to curing the political disease that afflicts the United States.
It seems clear that the American body politic has lost it’s bearings. Political rhetoric has become too extreme. Too many people exist in a political echo chamber, whether it’s in the information and entertainment they consume, the people they talk to, or even the friends and neighbors they choose. We seem to be in danger of spiraling into a dangerous situation where people choose whether to believe their information based on whether it fits their politics…when it should be information that drives political beliefs.
The American political system was built on the idea that people of good will could sit down together and work out their differences, based on a set of shared core values and similar information. It was understood that there would be conflict and that people would inevitably band together into “factions”. The Founders built a system designed to manage, and indeed to take advantage of that conflict in making a better, stronger nation through effective political dialogue and voting.
Has the system always worked perfectly? No. The Civil War was clearly the result of the failure of the political system to resolve conflict…and of course it was a great tragedy for the country. To some extent, that was because of flaws in the system, as well as powerful historical and geographic forces. However, some of today’s dysfunction can be seen in the pre-Civil War period: over-heated rhetoric, a failure to communicate between political factions, lack of focus on shared values, and encouragement of division by external and internal forces seeking their own advantage.
It’s time to focus attention on our shared values and find common ground. We have to encourage respectful communication and political understanding between Americans. We all have different opinions on the political issues of the day, and that is a good thing….but there is a right way and a wrong way to disagree, and a right way and a wrong way to navigate and resolve those conflicts.
Let’s choose the right way for our country.